Posts Tagged: pollution

U of T Engineering researchers use machine learning to enhance environmental monitoring of microplastics

Graduate research assistant Weiwu Chen (CivMin) counts microplastics using a microscope in the lab of Professor Elodie Passeport (CivMin, ChemE). (Photo: Shuyao Tan)

 

Microplastics exist all around us — in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. But before researchers can understand the real impact of these particles, they need faster and more effective ways to quantify what is there.  

Two recent U of T Engineering studies have proposed new methods that use machine learning to make the process of counting and classifying microplastics easier, faster and more affordable.  

Prof. Elodie Passeport

“It’s really time consuming to analyze a water sample for microplastics,” says Professor Elodie Passeport (CivMin, ChemE).

“It can take up to 40 hours to fully analyze a sample the size of a mason jar — and that specimen is from one point in time. It becomes especially difficult when you want to make comparisons over time or observe samples from different bodies of water.” 

This past March, the United Nations Environment Programme endorsed a historic resolution to end plastic pollution, which it called “a catastrophe in the making,” due to the threat the production and pollution poses to human health, marine and costal species, and global ecosystems. 

The synthetic material can take hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade. But it is not just visible plastic refuse that is an issue: over time plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. Those pieces that are less than five millimetres in size but greater than 0.1 micrometres are defined as microplastics.   

Researchers who study the effects of microplastics are still trying to understand how these tiny pieces could affect human and environmental health in ways that are different from the bulk material. 

A stormwater sample, left, is juxtaposed with the plastic particles manually picked out of the sample, right. (Photo: Kelsey Smyth)

Though past studies have demonstrated the presence of microplastics in various environments, the standards for how to quantify their levels — and critically, how to compare different samples over time and space — are still emerging. Passeport worked with PhD student Shuyao Tan (ChemE) and Professor Joshua Taylor (ECE) to address the challenge of analysis.  

“We asked ourselves whether there could be a crude measurement that could predict the concentration of microplastics,” says Passeport. 

“In collaboration with Professor Taylor, who has expertise in machine learning and optimization, we established a prediction model that employs a trained algorithm that can estimate microplastic counts from aggregate mass measurements.”  

 “Our method has guaranteed error tracking properties with similar results to manual counting, but it’s less costly and faster, allowing for the analysis of multiple samples from multiple points to estimate microplastic pollution.”  

The team’s investigation, published earlier this year in ACS ES&T Water, has the advantage of allowing researchers to manually process only a fraction of their collected samples and predict the quantity of the rest using an algorithm, without introducing any more error or variance.  

“Researchers working on microplastic analysis need to know how many plastic particles there are, the kinds of particles, the polymers and shapes,” says Tan. 

With this information, they can then study the effects of microplastic pollution on living organisms — as well as where this pollution is coming from, so they can deal with it at the source.” 

Classical quantification methods using visible light microscopy require the use of tweezers to count samples one-by-one under an optical microscope — a labour-intensive endeavour that is prone to human error. 

In an investigation published in Science of The Total Environment, PhD candidate Bin Shi (MSE), who is supervised by Professor Jane Howe (MSE, ChemE), employed deep learning models for the automatic quantification and classification of microplastics. 

Shi used scanning electron microscopes to segment images of microplastics and classify their shapes. When compared to visual screening methods, this approach provided a greater depth of field and finer surface detail that can prevent false identification of small and transparent plastic particles.  

“Deep learning allows our approach to speed up the quantification of microplastics, especially since we had to remove other materials that could create false identifications, such as minerals, substrate, organic matter and organisms,” says Shi.   

“We were able to develop accurate algorithms that can effectively quantify and classify the objects in such complex environments.” 

It is this diversity in the chemical composition and shapes of microplastics that can create difficulties for many researchers, especially since there is no standardized method to quantify microplastics.  

Shi collected microplastic samples in various shapes and chemical compositions — such as beads, films, fibres, foams and fragments — from sources including face wash, plastic bottles, foam cups, washing and drying machines, and medical masks. He then processed images of the individual samples using the scanning electron microscope to create a library of hundreds of images. 

This project is the first labelled open-source dataset for microplastics image segmentation, which allows researchers from all over the world to benefit from this new method and develop their own algorithms specific to their research interests.   

This method also has the potential to go down to the scale of nanoplastics, which are particles smaller than 0.1 micrometres,” says Shi.  

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) plate holding microplastic samples, left, and the SEM used for the project, right. (Photo: Bin Shi)

“If we can continue to expand our library of images to include more microplastic samples from different environments with varied shapes and morphologies, we can monitor and analyze microplastic pollution much more effectively.” 

For now, the goal of Passeport and Tan’s predictive model is to be a diagnostic tool that can help researchers identify areas where they should concentrate their analytical efforts with more in-depth technologies. 

The team also hopes this method can empower citizen scientists to monitor microplastic pollution in their own environments.  

“Individuals can collect samples, filter and dry them to get the weight and then use a trained algorithm to predict the amount of microplastics,” says Passeport. 

“As we continue our work, we want to introduce some automatic training sample selection methods that will allow individuals to just click a button and automatically select the training sample,” adds Tan. 

We want to make our method easy so that they can be used by anyone, without them needing any knowledge of machine learning and mathematics.”  

 

By Safa Jinje

This story originally published by Engineering News


Grad student profile: Weaam Jaafar, PhD candidate

Weaam Jaafar in front of the Ontario provincial legislature, Queen’s Park, in Toronto in August of 2021. (Photo courtesy Weaam Jaafar)

 

In advance of the coming Graduate Research Days, February 24 & 25, CivMin contacted previous participants to get their point of view on the event and their research goals at U of T. Our Q&A is with PhD candidate Weaam Jaafar.

 

If you could let us know a little bit about yourself, where you came from, as in what institution, and what attracted you to U of T.
My name is Weaam Jaafar. I am originally from Lebanon, where I attended the American University of Beirut. I got my bachelor’s in chemistry and after that I worked two years in air quality and emissions in Lebanon. I work now with Professor Marianne Hatzopoulou. I saw what she worked on, and it really attracted me to her work, so I applied to U of T.

How did you become aware of Professor Hatzopoulou’s work?
I worked at a professor’s lab before and she recommended me to [Prof. Hatzopoulou], then on the U of T website I saw lots of information about what she does and I became aware of the opportunity.

What are you working on now with Professor Hatzopoulou’s group?
Right now I’m working on a citizen science project where we are working with citizens from the community. We are teaching them how to install air sensors, and compare emission data, so they can actually have the hands-on approach and understand the end result. We’re going to raise awareness towards air pollution to a specific community – around Yonge and Eglinton.

I guess you’ve seen UrbanScanner as well?
Yes, I have. I haven’t tested with it, though I know all about it and have seen it, but I still did not get the chance to use it.

Did you attend the Graduate Research Days (GRD) last year? Was it a positive and reinforcing experience?
Yes, I did. It was really nice, especially as I came from a background that is not related to engineering (chemistry). It was a very nice way for me to get introduced to what people are working on and to have a chat with the professors. It was a really nice experience and, even though we couldn’t do it face-to-face because of COVID, it was a really nice way of doing it virtually.

We had this virtual platform, GatherTown where we created avatars of ourselves, and we used them to go around the hall from room to room. It was so much fun. You could chat one-on-one or within a larger group, as you liked.

It was just one big room, split it into different corners, where every professor had the corner. The administration had their own corner; it was really simple, very nice and quick.

Did you have the chance to meet any of the professors, or students, from U of T prior to that event? Or was [GRD] your first contact?
I did know a student who works with Professor Hatzopoulou. She put me in contact because we’re both from Lebanon and they did guide me through the process a bit with this event. But, other than that, I had no other contact.

Weaam Jaafar at the atmospheric lab at the American University of Beirut (Photo courtesy Weaam Jaafar)

We knew last year there were a few incoming grad students located in Beirut and we were concerned, as there had been a massive explosion there last year. We wondered what’s going on, if everyone was okay, and will people be able to attend, even get online, etc?
The Beirut explosion is a tragedy, a very painful event that affected everyone. The number of innocent people lost, the ones injured, the ones left without a home, the damage of our beautiful city caused suffering beyond comprehension. We are still traumatized by it, and I believe that Aug. 4 has left us with a deep scar that is difficult to heal. It was a really rough time. But it was eye opening on a professional and personal level. I got to see the community come together and work on a project related to the explosion. It was on the emissions and what happened after [the explosion]. We were able to provide awareness to the public about air quality and safety – if they should close their windows or open their windows.

You’ve arrived here in Canada now and so how did you find getting accustomed to Canada, the city and the campus?
Aside from the cold, everything is fine. All in all, it was a really nice experience. The community is great, and especially welcoming at U of T. As I said, I come from a background that’s very different from engineering and I didn’t feel like I was left out.

People from the lab who I’ve met virtually, or I’ve spoken to them, they’ve helped me a lot on aspects of my project. It’s a really nice community and I honestly can’t wait to go back in person to meet more people.

How have you found, overall, the city to get around and the campus? Have you found any areas of the city you really like?
I have adjusted well. I haven’t had much time to explore the city, but I went to some of the famous places such as Lake Ontario, Toronto Island, Queen’s Park and the CN Tower, which is pretty huge. It was really nice, you feel relaxed when you’re there, and everything is accessible. Everything is easy.

A part of my lifestyle changed, because in Beirut we didn’t have, for example, a tap to pay [system at stores]. Now here it’s just hold your phone up, you go out and you’re finished. It’s that simple.

Do you live downtown near campus or further away? You’ve found the city easy to get around with a walking or public transit and going to various neighborhoods?
I live downtown, near campus, about 20 minutes away by walking.

It really is easy, so I usually take either the subway or walk, depending on the distance. Everything is accessible by foot. It’s really nice that everything is so close to you and don’t have to travel to far places to get one thing or another.

Toronto is supposed to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Do you agree?
Yes, I think so. Next to the University of Toronto there’s Chinatown and Kensington Market near it. It’s so nice. it’s like a huge part in in the city. And then you go back you go to another block over and it’s so different. People from all around the world – it’s not just embedded in the university itself, but it’s all around Toronto.

You arrived in the summer and now it’s winter. How have you adapted?
I arrived in August, so got to experience some heat in the city. I used to be a winter guy, now I’m definitely a summer guy. The cold is manageable, but in the end I really like the summer here – it’s not too hot.

You’re now prepared you for winter and properly clothed, so that’s great. Do you have any tips for students who would be coming to campus or Toronto or even Canada for the first time?  Do you have any advice for for them?
I think my advice would be to arrive earlier, or as soon as possible. If the semester starts in September, arrive two weeks before, just so that you settle in. Everything is good because for me, for example, one of the things is you have a time zone difference – you need to adjust to that. Then you need to get your priorities straight – from bank accounts to getting a full SIM card. Even though everything is accessible, you’re still new to the country. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone. Everyone is helpful.

So that’s it. Honestly, just be there on time. Be prepared because U of T is not a difficult university, but it’s going to take time. It’s going to take time and effort. So, if you arrive only a couple of days before class, then immediately engage in the university,  you’re going to be lost. Take some extra time beforehand to get prepared.

It’s not even a full year into your research. What’s on the horizon for you, and what’s further out?
Honestly, what’s next is right now I’m just working on developing my project. I want to see how I can elevate it. The something positive about my project right now is I’m getting to experience working with citizens. So working with people from Lebanon, and working with people from Canada, it’s going to be something different. I look forward to that to see what comes next.

Your other colleagues, or research stream students, are they from all over the world as well, right?
Yes, I’ve met some people from Canada, from Iran, Lebanon, Poland and the United States. It’s very, very diverse.

Is the research-stream community really very global at U of T?
It is. It is big time. You’ll be surprised like it’s not just Canadians and a couple of international students. I would say that international students are a big part of the research stream students at the University.

Is this a great opportunity to forge friendships and/or professional relationships that might carry on for a longer time than simply in school?
It gets you more exposure and more learning about new things, new cultures, and different connections. The connections are great that you make here, so it’s a really big opportunity. We have different-thinking people from around the world meeting, discussing what could be, seeing different perspectives and different views. That part is really amazing.

 

By Phill Snel

 

 


Q&A with Prof. Elodie Passeport: Can green infrastructure keep microplastics out of the environment?

 

You may have heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch, but the majority of plastic waste in the environment is more subtle: tiny particles ranging from the size of a pea to the thickness of a human hair — and even smaller.

A team of U of T Engineering researchers — including Professor Elodie Passeport (CivMin, ChemE), Professor Jennifer Drake (CivMin) and CivMin PhD student Kelsey Smyth — studies what happens to these microplastics as they make their way into ditches, streams, rivers and lakes, especially during heavy rainstorms. In a paper published earlier this year, they show that human-engineered structures known as bioretention cells are a useful strategy for controlling microplastics in the environment.

Writer Tyler Irving sat down with Passeport to talk about some of her recent research.

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Can you briefly describe the challenge you’re dealing with?

Any time it rains in an urban area, the water doesn’t infiltrate into the soil the way it would in nature, because there are roads and parking lots and buildings in the way. The water flows over them and carries anything accumulated on these surfaces along with it.

Microplastics are one of the many forms of contamination in this water. They often take the form of microfibres that come from our clothing — polyester fabrics, for example — which are not only shed by people walking around the city, but also arrive from further away via atmospheric deposition, that is, through the air. There is also a lot of plastic pieces from litter, such as polystyrene food containers or polyethylene plastic bags, and bits of rubber, mostly from car tires.

The question is: can we filter them out?

What is a bioretention cell?

There are lots of different designs, but what they all have in common is that they aim to control stormwater volumes and peak flows by providing a more natural flow of water. They consist of a depression in the ground from which the natural soil has been removed, and then filled with some kind of engineered media that allows water to flow through. They are often planted with vegetation as well.

Studies carried out at this bioretention cell, located Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, Ont., suggest that engineered urban green infrastructure can help prevent some types of microplastics from getting into the environment. (Photo: Leanda Rhodes-Dicker)

Over the past 20 years or so, we’ve started to see more bioretention cells in our urban environments: there are some on the Toronto waterfront. One of the ones we’ve studied in detail is at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, Ont., which is managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

How can bioretention cells help control microplastic pollution?

Slowing down the flow of water helps control stormwater surges, but it can also help remove solids that are suspended in the water by physically trapping them.

Microplastics are not easily degradable by bacteria, but they are a form of suspended solids, so we wanted to know whether the bioretention cell would be able to trap them.

Did it?

Yes. If you take just a “black box” approach where you only look at what comes in and what goes out, you find that there are 84% fewer particles at the end than at the beginning. But there are some caveats to that.

The first is that we only looked at microplastics whose size ranges from five millimetres down to 100 micrometres, or about the width of a human hair. We don’t know what’s going on at the size fractions smaller than that.

The second is that we didn’t look at what happens to the particles that were filtered out. We know they are not going to biodegrade, at least not on a time scale that is relevant to the life of the bioretention cell.

It is unlikely that the microplastics alone could be the cause of clogging in bioretention cells. But together with other suspended solids, they can increase the time needed for water to infiltrate, and the media would have to be taken out and replaced.

Microplastics range in diameter from five millimetres down to one micrometre. These plastic beads are used as reference samples in microplastics research by Professor Elodie Passeport and her team. (Photo Ziting (Judy) Xia)

How do you actually measure microplastics in soil or water samples?

It’s actually very time-consuming. The first thing to do is a simple organic digestion, to get rid dissolved organic carbon and the bits of grass or insect parts that you don’t want to count as plastic. Then you can do a separation by density to get rid of minerals or inorganic material that isn’t plastic either.

But then what you have left has to be visually identified by hand using a microscope, to make sure that it really is plastic, and to figure out what kind of plastic it is. We are so lucky to have received the tremendous help of 11 undergraduate students to date on this important manual sorting and counting task, which can take 20 to 40 hours per sample.

We also use chemical analytical methods such as spectroscopy to identify what types of plastics we’re seeing: for example, polyester versus polystyrene. One of the interesting things we find by doing this is that a lot of it is actually cellulosic material. This often comes from cotton clothing, such as blue jeans. That material is not plastic and it is biodegradable, but it doesn’t degrade very quickly, even in engineered environments like bioretention cells.

What would you like to study next?

The ultimate goal would be to help people optimize the new bioretention cells they are building. For example, this filtration that we know is happening: is it happening at the surface of the bioretention cell, or is it happening all the way through the medium? If it’s the former, maybe you only need to replace the top five or ten centimetres every few years to keep the cell working at maximum efficiency.

I also want to know a lot more about the smaller size fractions, the ones we haven’t examined. At a certain point, microplastics turn into nanoplastics, and there’s a lot to learn about those.

We’ve recently joined a new multidisciplinary microplastics research project led by Professor Jill Crossman at the University of Windsor. Professors Miriam Diamond (Earth Sciences, ChemE) and Maria Dittrich (UTSC) are also involved. Together, we’re going to be developing even more tools to track and characterize microplastics from a variety of samples.

We’re also improving our analytical methods. With Shuyao Tan, a PhD student co-supervised with Professor Josh Taylor (ECE), we have developed a simple and fast prediction method of microplastic counts from measurement of a sample mass, which will significantly reduce sample process time.

By Tyler Irving
This article originally published by Engineering News

CivMin study: Electric vehicles can fight climate change, but they’re not a silver bullet

Sales of passenger electric vehicles are growing fast, but a new analysis from U of T Engineering researchers shows that on its own, electrifying the U.S. fleet will not be enough to meet our climate change mitigation targets. (Photo: microgen, via Envato)

Today there are more than 7 million electric vehicles (EVs) in operation around the world, compared with only about 20,000 a decade ago. It’s a massive change — but according to a group of U of T Engineering researchers, it won’t be nearly enough to address the global climate crisis. 

“A lot of people think that a large-scale shift to EVs will mostly solve our climate problems in the passenger vehicle sector” says Alexandre Milovanoff, lead author of a new paper published today in Nature Climate Change. 

“I think a better way to look at it is this: EVs are necessary, but on their own, they are not sufficient.” 

Around the world, many governments are already going all-in on EVs. In Norway, for example, where EVs already account for half of new vehicle sales, the government has said it plans to eliminate sales of new internal combustion vehicles altogether by 2025. The Netherlands aims to follow suit by 2030, with France and Canada to follow by 2040. Just last week, California announced plans to ban sales of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035.

Milovanoff and his supervisors, Professors Daniel Posen and Heather MacLean (both CivMin) are experts in life cycle assessment — modelling the impacts of technological changes across a range of environmental factors. 

They decided to run a detailed analysis of what a large-scale shift to EVs would mean in terms of emissions and related impacts. As a test market, they chose the United States, which is second only to China in terms of passenger vehicle sales. 

“We picked the U.S. because they have large, heavy vehicles, as well as high vehicle ownership per capita and high rate of travel per capita,” says Milovanoff. “There is also lots of high-quality data available, so we felt it would give us the clearest answers.” 

The team built computer models to estimate how many electric vehicles would be needed to keep the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, a target often cited by climate researchers. 

“We came up with a novel method to convert this target into a carbon budget for U.S. passenger vehicles, and then determined how many EVs would be needed to stay within that budget,” says Posen. “It turns out to be a lot.” 

Based on the scenarios modelled by the team, the U.S. would need to have about 350 million EVs on the road by 2050 in order to meet the target emissions reductions. That works out to about 90% of the total vehicles estimated to be in operation at that time. 

“To put that in perspective, right now the total proportion of EVs on the road in the U.S. is about 0.3%,” says Milovanoff. 

“It’s true that sales are growing fast, but even the most optimistic projections suggest that by 2050, the U.S. fleet will only be at about 50% EVs.” 

The team says that in addition to the barriers of consumer preferences for EV deployment, there are technological barriers such as the strain that these vehicles would place on the country’s electricity infrastructure. 

According to the paper, a fleet of 350 million EVs would increase annual electricity demand by 1,730 TWh, or about 41% of current levels. This would require massive investment in infrastructure and new power plants, some of which would almost certainly run on fossil fuels. 

The shift could also impact what’s known as the demand curve — the way that demand for electricity rises and falls at different times of day — which would make managing the national electrical grid more complex. Finally, there are technical challenges to do with the supply of critical materials, such as lithium, cobalt and manganese for batteries. 

The team concludes that getting to 90% EV ownership by 2050 is an unrealistic scenario. Instead, what they recommend is a mix of policies, including many designed to shift people out of personal passenger vehicles in favour of other modes of transportation. 

These could include massive investment in public transit — subways, commuter trains, buses — as well as the redesign of cities to allow for more trips to be taken via active modes, such as bicycles or on foot. They could also include strategies such as telecommuting, a shift already spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“EVs really do reduce emissions, but they don’t get us out of having to do the things we already know we need to do,” says MacLean. “We need to rethink our behaviours, the design of our cities, and even aspects of our culture. Everybody has to take responsibility for this.” 

By Tyler Irving

 

This story originally published in Engineering News


Microplastics in drinking water: how much is too much?

Professors Chelsea Rochman (left, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Bob Andrews (right, CivMin) have joined forces to develop new techniques for analyzing microplastics and nanoplastics in drinking water. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Is there plastic in your drinking water? Professors Bob Andrews (CivMin) and Chelsea Rochman (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) say there is — but right now, researchers don’t know much more than that.

“If someone asks me how microplastics in drinking water influence human health, I have to say that we have no idea,” says Rochman. “But we should be concerned that the mismanagement of our waste has come back to haunt us.”

Plastic never really goes away. While some waste plastic is recycled or incinerated, most ends up in landfills or worse. A world-leading expert on the fate of plastic waste, Rochman has documented how it ends up in oceans, lakes, rivers, as well as along their shores and even in the bodies of aquatic animals.

“All of the big stuff that you see eventually gets broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces,” she says. When they become small enough a microscope is required to see them — anywhere from a few millimetres down to a few micrometres — they are referred to as microplastics.

As with larger plastic pieces, microplastics are found widely in the environment. Rochman and her team have even extracted them from the bodies of fish for sale in a commercial market.

Concern over microplastics has been floating just below the surface for some time, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that the issue of microplastics in drinking water hit headlines in a big way.

A non-profit group called Orb Media took samples of tap water from around the world, found microplastics in most of their samples, and released their results to the media. As a member of both the Drinking Water Research Group and the Institute for Water Innovation, Andrews knew that his collaborators would be curious about the story.

“Within hours, I got calls from a couple of the major water providers in southern Ontario that I work with, asking me what we were doing on this topic,” he says.

Despite his long experience collaborating with drinking water providers on treatment and technology, Andrews had not researched the issue of microplastics before. So he sought out advice from Rochman, who at first was similarly skeptical.

“I said, ‘I don’t think they’re going to be there, but sure, let’s filter some water and have a look,’” says Rochman. “We did, and they were there.”

Rochman and Andrews examine tiny plastic particles extracted from Toronto’s harbour. Even smaller particles — micrometres in size — have been found in drinking water from around the world. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

The traditional approach to dealing with drinking water contaminants, such as heavy metals or organic compounds, is for scientists to determine a target threshold below which the risk to human health is considered minimal. Drinking water authorities then invest in treatment technologies designed to keep the levels of these contaminants below the threshold.

But there is no existing threshold for microplastics, and developing one will be complex for several reasons.

First, plastic interacts differently with the body depending on how big the pieces are. “What we’ve seen in animals is that larger pieces usually just get excreted,” says Rochman. “But the smaller particles can actually leave the gut and go into tissues, which is when you can get inflammation and other problems.”

Another challenge is that there are no standardized methods for testing levels of microplastics in drinking water. Different teams employing different techniques could obtain different results, making it hard to compare scientific studies with one another.

Contamination is also an issue — tiny plastic particles shed from clothes, carpets and upholstery can get into the samples and skew the results.

These challenges are further compounded by the fact that microplastics can break down into even smaller particles, known as nanoplastics. Nanoplastics may behave differently from microplastics, but information is scarce because methods for detecting them are not merely non-standardized — they haven’t even been invented.

“Right now, we don’t have good techniques for handling nanoplastic particles,” says Andrews. “One strategy we’re considering is to concentrate them, burn them, and analyze the gas to determine what types of plastic are there. We’d then have to back-calculate to determine their initial concentrations.”

Andrews and his team also have experience testing the toxicity of various compounds on cells grown in the lab. While they may one day go down this route for nanoplastics, for now Andrews and Rochman emphasize the importance of improved analysis as a key step toward developing policies to address the challenge of microplastics.

“California has already passed laws mandating the monitoring of microplastics in drinking water and in the ambient environment,” she says. “I think it’s good that those bills happened, because they are now forcing this global methods development program, which we’re helping lead. We don’t want to throw out numbers until we feel that we have a sound method.”

The collaboration between Rochman and Andrews is funded in part by XSeed, an interdivisional research funding program designed to promote multidisciplinary research. XSeed projects include one principal investigator from U of T Engineering and one from another University of Toronto division, in this case, the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Learn more about the latest cohort of projects funded through XSeed

“Dealing with microplastics is the kind of challenge that truly does require people from different disciplines to work together,” says Andrews. “Neither of us could do this alone.”

 

By Tyler Irving

 

This article originally posted on U of T Engineering News 


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